Meeting the Volunteers of Casa San Marcos
The people who provide love and support to youth with disabilities.
December 26, 2017 - Dominican Republic
As I sit in the physical therapy room at NPH's Casa San Marcos, I am filled with a surprising sense of content. From here you can hear the youth with disabilities playing happily outside and a child receiving physical therapy in the pool. I am surrounded by walls and resources donated by people from across the world and the passionate caregivers that give their time and love to put it all to good use.
Casa San Marcos was built in 2013 for the children of the NPH Dominican Republic home with disabilities. They are currently caring for thirteen children with conditions ranging from Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome to Autism, cognitive delays and Rett Syndrome. Pictures of these kids past and present line the walls in homemade photo frames; it is a place of love and support in every sense of the word.
The home is welcoming and well-maintained with everything a child with disabilities requires, including a sensory stimulation room and a small pool. It is here where I met Edin*, a nineteen-year-old from the NPH home, as he guides a young girl with severe cognitive delays through the water in the dark. With only one functioning eye, the light distracts her too much and Edin prefers to keep the lights off. Like his brother, he loves helping the youth with disabilities. After volunteering at Casa San Marcos in his last three years of high school, he has now dedicated his year of service to assist the volunteers and tías, the NPH caregivers.
Next year, Edin hopes to go to university so he can return to NPH as a qualified physical therapist - something that Casa San Marcos is in much need of, as funds limit their ability to pay a full-time physical therapist and speech therapist to assist the kids and support the tías. For now, they do their best with the skills they gather from international doctors who visit a few times a year and volunteers that dedicate a year of their lives to support the children.
Alice A. is one of three volunteers here, one month into her year-long role. With a degree in nursing from Milan, she has a background in caring for those in need but, like the kids, would benefit from a full-time physical therapist onsite to help evolve her skills to better help the children.
Alice and the staff would like to continuously improve the inclusion of the children and youth, by integrating them more with the other children at NPH, and by bringing them into the community on excursions to locations such as the beach. To do this, Casa San Marcos requires special transportation to accommodate the five youth in wheelchairs, and donations will help them to achieve this. They are currently limited to an everyday bus, which makes trips into the community or to the hospital very difficult.
However, the main challenge of working at Casa San Marcos for many of the volunteers and caregivers like Alice and Edin, is they know there are more children with disabilities waiting to be accepted to NPH. They do their best to provide assistance to families in the community who look after their children at home, but there are always kids who are waiting with no other option.
As troubling as this is, it was heartwarming to know the main issue relayed to me by the volunteers and caregivers is they have more love to give, they just need the opportunity to give it.
*Name has been changed for privacy purposes.
Visitor and Godparent